Iran’s FM: Israel is hitting Iraq’s ‘official military’ in strikes

Zarif blames Jerusalem for series of attacks on Iranian-backed targets that Israel has not officially commented on

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif smiles as he meets French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian (not seen) on September 22, 2019 in New York City. (Johannes EISELE / AFP)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif smiles as he meets French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian (not seen) on September 22, 2019 in New York City. (Johannes EISELE / AFP)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has explicitly blamed Israel for a series of airstrikes in Iraq, insisting that the targets were part of the official Iraqi military.

Since mid-July, eight arms depots and training camps belonging to the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) have been targeted in Syria and Iraq. The PMF, an umbrella group of largely Iran-backed militias, has blamed both Israel and the US for the string of blasts and drone sightings at its bases.

Israeli officials have not publicly commented on the allegations, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted at the possibility that Israel has struck in Iraq.

As part of a discussion on an attack on Saudi oil facilities on September 14, which has been blamed on Iran and a Tehran-backed militia, Zarif said that militias in Iraq are part of the national army.

“These militias that you talk about are part of the Iraqi government. The Israelis are attacking parts of Iraqi military, official military,” Zarif said in a CBS interview broadcast Sunday.

Illustrative: Popular Mobilization Forces members stand by a burning truck after a drone attack blamed on Israel near Qaim border crossing, in Anbar province, Iraq, August 25, 2019. (AP Photo)

An airstrike was reported Sunday afternoon in western Iraq, targeting a military base belonging to the PMF — the third such attack on the militia in a week and the fourth in a month.

“An unidentified aircraft targeted the area surrounding a military base next to the al-Murssinat [military] airport in the western part of the al-Anbar province,” Lebanese television station al-Mayadeen quoted sources as saying.

There were no casualties in the attack, the report said.

On Thursday, Arabic-language media reported that unknown aircraft attacked PMF posts in the Boukamal region of eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border, killing at least five people and wounding nine, after an earlier similar strike two days earlier.

Some Syrian and Iraqi outlets have said Israel was suspected of being behind the strikes. There were no such public allegations by Syrian or Iraqi officials.

On September 9, aircraft targeted an arms depot and posts of Iranian-backed militias in the Boukamal region, killing at least 18 fighters and destroying at least eight storehouses. A Syrian security official said at the time that Israeli jets were behind the attack but denied there were casualties.

The Saudi-owned Al Arabiya network has reported that the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group also maintains a presence in the Boukamal region.

Israel views Iran as its greatest threat, and has acknowledged carrying out scores of airstrikes in Syria in recent years aimed primarily at preventing the transfers of sophisticated weapons, including guided missiles, to the Iran-backed Hezbollah.

This quiet war has reportedly expanded to Iraq in recent weeks, with unnamed US officials saying the Israel Defense Forces was behind at least some strikes on Iran-linked sites in Iraq.

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